Newark Valley High School (NY) was very successful in Brian Sherwood’s first three seasons at the helm. The Cardinals went a combined 21-8 in that span and made the Class C playoffs each season, establishing a level of winning most coaches would be content with.
But Sherwood thought his team could take another step. So for the first time in his career as a head coach, he relinquished his duties as defensive coordinator and truly took the reins of the entire team. The thinking behind the move - during games, Sherwood previously met with the defense while his offense was on the field. Switching things up would allow him to watch both units and have a better pulse of his team as a whole.
It certainly looks like a genius move now. The Cardinals went 13-0, taking home the Class C State title, and Sherwood was named the Elite 24 Coach of the Year. Newark Valley bulldozed over the opposition, winning by an average of 32.8 points per game.
“It was different for me, but it also helped in the game planning week to week,” Sherwood said. “It made those two (coordinators) more crucial in their own game-planning and put me on both sides of the ball instead of just the defense. It put me more in touch with both sides of the ball.
“You only have so much time during the week and, when you’re a coordinator, you’re spending your time on that side. I think we were more efficient in planning and finding tendencies with me working on both sides.”
The decision was finalized after Newark Valley’s first scrimmage, which doubled as the staff’s introduction to Hudl Sideline. The technology delivered instant replay to the coaches’ iPads in mere seconds, allowing for more teaching moments between drives.
Sherwood didn’t want to have his head buried in a tablet during his offense’s drives. It was time to truly take control of the team.
“It wouldn’t have been effective if I would’ve continued to be a coordinator because I couldn’t have sat on the bench, get out of the flow of the game and make all the decisions a head coach has to make during the game,” Sherwood said. “We made adjustments each series versus making minor adjustments at halftime.
“After the games we were never disappointed that we didn’t see something.”
Before using replay, the coaches gained some insights from watching the games on the sidelines, but they also had to rely heavily on the players for information on what was happening on the field. That info varied in reliability.
Sideline removed those questionable reports and gave the coaches exactly what they needed to see in real time.
“You had to teach kids how to relay information to you, and our kids are really good at that, but instead of them having to come out and tell you, you can see it,” Sherwood said. “The kids a lot of times don’t know the answers. It just went right to upstairs, which got the video down to us of what the opposition was lined up in.”
And any disagreements between the coaches' perspective and what the players thought was happening vanished.
“When they see it with their own eyes, it’s their own perspective,” Sherwood said. “They don’t get defensive at all because it’s there and they can see it. They can learn from it.”
Sherwood made a bold move in 2016 and he misses his coordinator duties sometimes. But he willingly would give them up for the hardware now sitting in Newark Valley’s trophy case.